National

Farmers’ protests find new battlefield

S Ronendra SinghNandana James New Delhi/Mumbai | Updated on February 03, 2021

Govt sends notice to Twitter to remove accounts; MEA criticises foreign celebrities commenting on the issue

The farmers’ agitation, which has been occupying the centrestage on the roads bordering Delhi, has found a new battlefield — Twitter.

The microblogging platform erupted as the government went on the offensive, issuing a fresh notice to Twitter to remove contents/accounts that talked about ‘farmer genocide’.

In a five-page note to Twitter, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said such content was a motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds.

257 accounts blocked

The development comes after Twitter unblocked the 257 accounts and the tweets it had briefly jammed a day after a January 31 government order. The restoration of the accounts invited the government’s wrath.

“It may be noted that as per Indian law, with which Twitter is bound to comply, Twitter is an “intermediary” as defined under Section 2[1][w] of the Information Technology Act and provides a platform wherein opinions of persons are communicated across the world and are open for all to see,” MeitY said, adding that refusal to comply would invite penal action.

Meanwhile, another arm of the government — the External Affairs Ministry — also joined the fray, criticising celebrities for rushing in to comment on matters such as the on-going farmers’ agitation before ascertaining facts. The government’s observations come a day after pop singer Rihanna tweeted about the protests asking why more people were not talking about it. Social activist Greta Thurnberg also tweeted about the agitation.

“The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” tweeted the Ministry’s spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.

Frowns show

The government’s directives — and Twitter’s initial action of pulling down the accounts — did not go down well with advocates of free speech. “It is a major concern when tech companies, which wield enormous power in this age in disseminating information and shaping opinions, yield to pressure from the government,”said Prasanth Sugathan, legal director of the digital rights organisation, SFLC.in.

“If a company receives legal requests from government actors that they know is clearly illegal or overboard, they should contest it, they should push back on it, and even if they comply with it, they should immediately seek legal means to challenge it or take recourse against it,” advised Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Policy Director and Senior International Counsel at Access Now.

Published on February 03, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor